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Doctor of Physical Therapy

Katie Swanson


Walnut Grove, Minnesota

"Interdisciplinary learning is just one of the things that make this program unique. The new Center for Health Sciences Education enables many of the health science programs to learn under one roof, so there are even more opportunities to work together. The DPT program also prepares you to become a generalist practitioner. With this training, you'll be prepared to work in any setting of PT."


How to succeed

"Don't limit yourself. St. Ambrose allows you to get tons of clinical experience in a variety of settings. I always thought I wanted to focus on outpatient and orthopaedic PT. Now that I've been in inpatient, pediatric and neuro rehab, I'm open to more areas of the field."

When Katie observed a physical therapist as a wellness major at Waldorf College, she knew that PT was the profession for her. As a third-year student of the St. Ambrose DPT program, she's learning to treat a variety of patients, from those recovering from sprained ankles to those with brain injuries. "The clinical experience you do teaches about the social aspect of PT-how to communicate with patients and to help them understand their diagnosis. I've also learned how to collaborate with clinicians and my fellow classmates."

Last summer, Katie completed her internship at On With Life, a facility in Ankeny, Iowa for patients recovering from brain injury.

In her own words

Why St. Ambrose?

I'm from a small town. And when I visited Ambrose, I got that same small town feel, even though it's in the Quad Cities. People were so friendly, and I immediately felt comfortable. I love that there are many opportunities to be active on campus. I play intramural basketball. Comedians come here to perform. We even have Stress Free Days during finals and the dining hall has a breakfast at midnight.

The DPT program has a great reputation. The pass rates for the national boards are high, and that's important. When I was applying, anytime I had questions about the program, professors were always there to offer advice. They still are! The faculty members always have their doors open for us.

What's something you've done in the program that you never expected to?

Go to Las Vegas in the middle of grad school! The program encourages everyone to attend the Combined Sections Meeting sponsored by the American Physical Therapy Association. My first year, I went to the APTA's conference in Vegas, where we had the opportunity to go to lectures, see different products and interact with other students and therapists from across the country. A majority of my class went, and it was a great way to build professional development.

What was your evidence-based practice scholarship project?

My topic was the effects of electrical stimulation on the lower extremities in patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or congestive heart failure. I worked with three classmates and our faculty advisor, Mike Puthoff, to research and write the paper. Now, I have a clear understanding of how research is conducted to answer a clinical question, determine the best treatment options and apply the findings to clinical practice.

Did you do a service-learning project?

I grew up doing 4-H, and service was a big part of my undergraduate experience. So I appreciate interacting with the community as a member of the Student Physical Therapy Organization. We volunteer in the community and sponsor continuing education for area clinicians. We also collected used wheelchairs to be repaired and sent to developing countries through Wheels for the World. October is PT month and on campus we provide education to the St. Ambrose community. As part of the service-learning course I volunteered at food pantries and helped with an exercise class for older adults.

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